Katopola appears in court, enters ‘not guilty’ plea

Malawi’s Clerk of Parliament , Maltilda Katopola, accused  of abuse of office and failure to declare interest in the famous Monik procurement saga, on Tuesday appeared before the High Court in Lilongwe and took a not guilty plea .

‘Not guilty’ Katopola told the court in plea on a charge of abuse of public office contrary to Section 95 (1) of the Penal Code

Director of Public Prosecutions,  Bruno Kalemba, has given  prosecution consent to the case after the Anti Corruption Bureau  (ACB) failed to handle it because the ACB director Alex Nampota excused himself before he authorized the bureau to prosecute the case.

However, Happy Mkandawire, prosecuting, said police are not ready for the case as they have asked for adjournment and Katopola’s lawyer Yambani Mulemba asked for 21 days after disclosure of evidence.

Chief Resident Magistrate Ruth Chinangwa then adjourned the case to September 25 for  hearing.

Katopola: Pleaded 'not guilty'

In the morning Katopola was spotted at the police headquarters.

The state has dragged Katopola to court at a time President Joyce Banda refused to fire her as Clerk of Parliament after noting that procedures were flouted and that she could go with a lot of money-over K900 million as she would receive her retirement package up to 2030.

It is reported that the Vice-President Khumbo Kachali and Chief Secretary to the Government Bright Msaka pressurised the Parliamentary Service Commission (PSC)  chair , Henry Chimunthu Banda, to remove her.

Fresh charge

The state has also added another charge of  failure to disclose interest in awarding of contract contrary to Section 25 (d) 2 (a) of the Penal Code as read together with Section 34 of the Corrupt Practices Act. She also pleaded not guilty to the charge.

The charge of abuse of office carries a maximum of three years imprisonment while the second one which is failure to disclose interest in awarding a contract attracts a 12 year prison sentence.

The state is using a case in which Katopola was found at wrong  by the Parliamentary Service Commission but the late president Bingu wa Mutharika pardoned her. She was accused of giving a procurement order of printing materials to her own company-Monik.

Commentators have observed that the state is coming up with a case which was already cleared to block her from getting her benefits because sources claim that she may not go back to Parliament.

Last week police wanted to ambush her into signing documents for the case at an agreed place but she was smarter and aborted the operation.

The Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace (CCJP) and others later accused the Banda administration of making political decisions that are costly to the nation and described Katopola’s issue as witch-hunting.

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